What are Torrents?
Torrents are an easy and popular way to download and share content online, and because of this, many people use torrents to download anything from books to movies, to music or TV. A torrent is a simple file that tells your computer where it should download a very small part of the content that you want.
Unfortunately because of the way torrents are designed to work, with every user re-uploading and sharing the content, everyone can see exactly what you’ve been downloading. With open-source software, that’s no problem, but with pirated content like movies, music, or copyrighted software, it can quickly become an issue.
In 2010, US copyright holders obtained over 16,000 IP addresses of users who had downloaded copyrighted movies and sued them in a massive lawsuit. The copyright holders won that case and sent each of the users settlement offers ranging from $1000 to $3000, more or less. Some torrenting sites now function as honeypots for the FBI or other government agencies, and without a VPN to protect yourself, you are vulnerable to tracking.
Now enters the use of a VPN, or virtual private network. A VPN functions as a highly encrypted “tunnel” for the data to pass through, protecting your identity. If someone were to trace the torrent, they would end up at your VPN server, not you. Since these servers keep no logs, no one would ever be able to it was you who downloaded the content.
Your internet service provider might know that you connected to the server at some point, but there is no way to trace what exactly you downloaded. You could claim you wanted to make a purchase through an unsecured network and simply wished to protect your banking information, and no one would be able to prove otherwise. Because of legal issues, not all VPNs allow torrent traffic, which is understandable. Simply find a VPN you like, and that works in your country for your purposes, and get torrenting!
Certain VPNs take anonymity more seriously than others. Make sure you do your research if you’re serious about staying anonymous online, for whatever reason. Of course, a VPN can’t protect you from individual websites tracking your internet usage, or any kind of viruses or trackers you may have accidentally downloaded. The best practice is to use caution about what kind of sites you frequent, and install anti-virus software and anti-tracking apps like Ghostery on your computer to keep your information and browsing history private.
Not all VPNs work in all countries, or for all purposes. Be diligent in doing your research before choosing a VPN; a simple vpn search is a great place to start. IPVanish, PureVPN, or PIA are excellent VPNs, but they are only one among many great options.
Many sites, particularly social media, are relentless about tracking data, mostly in order to tailor advertisements to those which they feel will be the most effective for you. For this reason, you may find advertisements for, say, wedding dresses after you look at a few bridal sites, or ads for riding lawnmowers and power tools after you browse through Home Depot’s website. There are many steps you can take to prevent this sort of data tracking, but browsing the web through a VPN is a great start.
As you can probably guess, this service is not free. There are free torrent clients that will somewhat mask your identity, such as BitTorrent, but it is still possible to discover your identity if you do not use a VPN. Most reputable VPNs cost between $50 and $100 a year, which is hardly a lot to spend for your privacy online. That breaks down to $3.65 per day at the top end, which is just about the price of a cup of coffee. For the same price as your daily Starbucks boost, you can ensure your total anonymity online, and protect yourself from frightening lawsuits when you just want to watch the latest blockbuster or catch up on Game of Thrones for free.
To conclude, if you torrent any kind of media, using a VPN is worth exploring. If you can afford to do so, a VPN can protect you from criminal investigation or other forms of tracking. Some ISPs will even suspend service if they are able to trace you torrenting large files or large numbers of files, and it is always far better to be safe than sorry. For the price of a cup of coffee a day, your privacy is worth it. Try a VPN for torrenting today.